Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jack Hawkins, Joan Collins, Dewey Martin, Alex Minotis, James Robertson Justice, Luisa Boni, Sydney Chaplin, James Hayter, Kerima, Piero Giagnoni
Written by: William Faulkner, Harry Kurnitz, Harold Jack Bloom
Directed by: Howard Hawks
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 104
Date: 06/24/1955

Land of the Pharaohs (1955)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Tomb Town

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Howard Hawks aficionados usually avoid discussing this flop film. Writer William Faulkner famously balked that he had no idea how to write ancient Egyptian dialogue, and Hawks complained about how difficult it was to shoot using the Cinemascope aspect ratio. But for all that, it's a hugely enjoyable, if somewhat campy film. And Hawks' epic scale and use of movement far surpasses many of his colleagues. Jack Hawkins stars as the Egyptian Pharaoh obsessed with warring, pillaging and collecting treasure for his giant tomb. Pharaoh coaxes one of his slaves, the architect Vashtar (James Robertson Justice), to design a tomb more complex than a mere catacomb, one that will deter thieves for good. But Joan Collins steals the show as Pharaoh's sexy and treacherous second wife Nellifer. Hawks forgoes any of those monstrous epic battle scenes, but as always most of his characters are made of shades of gray, which makes for fascinating confrontations throughout. Dimitri Tiomkin provided the score, and two great cinematographers, Lee Garmes and Russell Harlan, teamed up to photograph the film.

DVD Details: Warner Home Video released the widescreen DVD in 2007, perhaps unfairly, as part of their "Cult Camp Classics" series. Even so, it's a terrific DVD, and it includes a Peter Bogdanovich commentary track and a trailer.

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